My name is Clint Brewer, and I am president-elect of the Society of Professional Journalists as well as executive editor of The City Paper, a free circulation daily newspaper published here in Nashville that serves the Davidson and Williamson County communities.
I want to thank Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate and her staff for allowing me to speak today on behalf of SPJ, the largest association of working media professionals in the world.
The federal rules governing media ownership in individual markets and what is commonly referred to as media consolidation are clearly on the minds of media owners and their companies as witnessed by the panel assembled here today.
Our organization, SPJ, represents more than 9,000 working journalists and media professionals largely in the U.S., and we as an organization have not taken a position on the merits or lack thereof of further consolidation of media ownership or expansion of media ownership ratios. Our constituency is broad, representing employees of the largest and most pervasive media companies in the world as well as independent journalists, freelancers and sole media proprietors.
In truth, SPJ represents working journalists, media companies and owners who stand on both sides of this debate.
What SPJ asks the Commissioners to consider in weighing these changes is whether action or inaction on this matter would have an impact on the quality of the public service being offered by media entities at the local level.
Would keeping ownership rules status quo or expanding them help or hurt the quality of journalism being offered by media outlets across this country and the quality of public service these companies are providing?
SPJ’s Code of Ethics is considered by many to be the independent standard for quality journalism in our profession. It is the only code pervasive in the world of journalism that exists apart from company mandates and standards. We encourage the FCC to give further consideration to the question of media ownership based on the kinds of benchmarks set forth in our organization’s Code of Ethics. I have included a copy with my written remarks for the Commission.
Quoting briefly from the code: “Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.”
In addition, our organization stands as the pre-eminent advocate in the media for seeking diversity when reporting the news and working toward a more open and transparent government through our freedom of information efforts.
Will your decisions have a positive impact on the ability of news organizations to serve these ends as well?
Will your rules – new or status quo – foster a greater ability among the nation’s journalists to pursue more transparent government, hold the powers that be accountable and seek a diversity of voices when reporting the news?
We believe these are questions the FCC should be able to answer in the affirmative as responsible public servants. We urge you to use these priorities set forth by SPJ and take them into account when you deliberate and make your decision.
In addition, we urge the FCC to cast the net wider in your search for public input. Already, there are innumerable working journalists and media professionals across this country that have seen their working lives changed by media consolidation. We challenge the FCC to present empirical evidence and testimony readily available from news rooms and journalists about the existing impact of changes in media ownership on the public service of journalism when a decision is made after this review process.
I want to thank the Commission and Commissioner Tate for giving SPJ this time to speak to you tonight on matters that will certainly impact the course of our country and its democracy.